More than $2 million ad for Dem. Senate hopeful Erica Smith paid for by GOP-linked PAC

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A group apparently tied to Republicans is spending more than $2 million to run advertisements promoting a Democratic candidate for Senate, according to updated filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Faith and Power PAC is spending more than $2.4 million to run advertisements in support of Erica Smith, one of five candidates in the Democratic primary.

CBS 17 has not received any response to an email associated with the group or been able to reach anyone by telephone. It’s not clear who’s funding the ad buy.

Smith has spoken out against the ads, accusing Republicans of seeking to “tamper” with the Democratic primary.

“I am against any interference whether it’s Democratic-backed or Republican-backed. And, it’s just disappointing that this group would come out and run these ads,” she told CBS 17. “We don’t need any corporate PAC assistance in our race.”

Smith is hoping to be the party’s nominee to take on incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis in the November general election.

She believes the group behind the ad may be trying to promote her because they believe Tillis will have a better chance of winning against her than Democrat Cal Cunningham, who has led in fundraising and recent polling of the Democratic primary.

“I haven’t seen it happen in North Carolina before,” said Bruce Thompson, an attorney with Parker Poe in Raleigh and a Democratic strategist. “The courts have said you can set up groups like this. They have a voice. They have the same First Amendment rights that you and I would have as individuals.”

Smith noted in her interview with CBS 17 that the ad accurately conveys her biographical information and positions she’s taken on issues, such as supporting the Green New Deal.

“What’s in the ad shows who I am as a person. I am an engineer. I am an educator. I am an ordained woman of the cloth,” she said.

The ads began airing last week and are scheduled to continue for the next several days.

“Unless it’s an ad that is defamatory, the broadcast stations really aren’t in a position to deny these ads and to deny this speech,” said Thompson. “You may or may not agree with what they’re strategy is or what their motivation is, but they are a legitimate group following the rules. They’re expressing their opinions.”

In an email to CBS 17 last week, Tillis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo wrote, 

“The outrage from North Carolina Democrats over a positive ad buy for one of their candidates is curious considering they didn’t seem to have a problem with Harry Reid spending millions on attack ads against Senator Tillis during his 2014 primary. The Tillis campaign only heard of this outside group as of this week when their buy became public, and couldn’t be the least bit concerned with which radical liberal emerges from the chaos that is the Democratic primary. With all of the Democratic presidential candidates now turning their attention to North Carolina in the coming weeks, we’re looking forward to seeing how Cunningham and Smith’s visions for America align with the standard bearers of their party.”  

Cunningham tweeted about the situation involving Smith on Friday.

“Washington Republicans know Senator Tillis is weak, and apparently they don’t like his chances against me in November. Now they’re resorting to shady tactics to meddle in our election – and it’s disrespectful to North Carolina voters,” he tweeted.

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